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Opening DIY garage...need some feedback

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Hey guys,

I am currently a VW dealer tech near near Raleigh, NC and am looking into opening a DIY garage where anyone could come in and rent a lift and tools to work on their own car. I figure other car nuts like you would be the ideal target customer and I made a short survey to try and gauge interest and get some feedback. Even if you are not from my area it would help me immensely if you would take a minute to answer the survey for me.

 

1. If there was a place where you could rent a lift and tools in a climate controlled, indoor environment to work on your own vehicle is that something you would do?

Yes No

2. What do you think is a fair hourly rate for something like that? ___________

3. What is highest hourly rate you personally would be willing to pay? ___________

4. Think of the price you said you would be willing to pay. For this price:

A. What are a couple of things you feel “should be” or you would “expect” to be provided? __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________

__________________________________________________ _________

 

B. What are a couple of things that may not be expected but would be “a nice bonus” if they were provided? __________________________________________________ _________

__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________

5. Would you want the option of renting the help of a mechanic?

Yes No

6. How much extra per hour would you pay for the help of a certified mechanic? __________

7. What times would you be most likely to take advantage of this service? Weekday daytime, weekday evenings, weekend daytime or weekend evenings?

__________________________________________________

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we have Hands On Garage here in the Milwaukee area, ive thought about using it but the problem i have, is that...

 

ok, so im assuming i am driving my car there to fix it because i dont have a truck/trailer and at this point, another car and its at probably not the most opportune time due to my schedule. when i am there, i pay per minute for access to the tools/lifts/etc, what if i break something, need a part, and cant finish my project due to stores/dealers/junkyards being closed, my cars on the lift in a manner and i cant move it, and since i drove it there, i cant get home (the place is a good 20 miles from home in my town.

 

the idea behind it is cool and i like it alot, but for me it doesnt seem feasible unless it was right down the road.

 

http://handsongarage.com/index.html

 

your questions pretty much follow their business model it seems. so they might have alot of info on the website that might answer your questions.

 

i tend to think a mobile mechanic might be a better option, with less money spent up front to build a shop space, of course, as the mobile mech.. your clientele is much different.

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Thanks for the links guys. I had found a couple of other places just searching on google but not either of those 2 you referred to...I'll check them out for sure. I'm still working on the insurance part of it. I see what you mean about having being stranded there if you can't finish the job, I'll have to think about what would happen in that case.

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For what it's worth I worked in a Bicycle repair shop that was similar to this idea. In my experience with that you have to make sure you have a competent staff because you are going to get just about every type of customer from the person who has never done anything but switched the car from park to drive to very experienced people who may know more than you(which isn't a bad thing sometimes). The hardest thing I found in our shop was small tools disappearing. Doing a complete inventory at the beginning and end of the day of all tools was the only thing I found the helped cut back on tool theft. We also tried "leashing" tools to the work stands but that might be a little harder in this case. As far as pricing went depending on what the customer needed to do our prices Varied. For the most part we were about half the cost of taking it to a shop and having someone do it for you which I always seemed to think was fair enough. If they needed help from one of the staff prices generally went up 10-20%. As far as hours go that all depends on what works for you..if you can make this a success and be open 7 days a week during "normal" business hours that would be great. I know personally having something opened Sat/Sun would be amazing as most repair shops seem to be closed on the weekends here in Portland for the most part.

 

So again not the same thing but same idea with a different type of repair shop.

 

Either way if this helps or not Good Luck sounds like it could be awesome!

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You might consider some of the following ideas;

 

'coupons' for -what? - maybe 15 minute intervals of professional help. maybe give 4 or more as an incentive for a membership. They expire every 2 months, but members get 2 new ones every month. Coupons could also be used for 'sick-days' when you can't make it in to work on the car. maybe Walk-ins/non-members get bumped down the waiting list if a member needs a bay.Non-memembers buy pro assistance. maybe a high 'minimum for the first 15 minutes, then a reduced amount for every 15 after the first.

 

video surveillance. might cut down a little on disappearing tools, might be helpful if an accident occurs.

 

consider having customers watch a short safety video. Check with insurance company if it might save you some money.

 

How to decide when to 'evict' someone's car. 4 consecutive weekdays of no work done or 3 days if a Sat or Sun is one of the no-shows? park it? tow it after X days? check into 'abandoned car' rules and liens.

 

Ask local police if they need vin numbers to check for stolen vehicles? maybe just vehicles that look like they are being parted out?

 

check into 'sponsorship' . maybe some tool, lubricant or parts company would furnish free/discounted products if you use their stuff and put up some banners.

 

get a 'roach-coach'/food truck to stop by. (kick-back?)

 

get a mobile detailing service lined up. (kick back?)

 

sponsor an occasional basic maintenance Powder-Puff seminar, First Car seminar for ladies and teens.

 

Have a coupla car-port bays for quick stuff(battery, belt swaps,plug changes etc.) maybe some intermediate covered bays with drains/w'ever where ramps are allowed for fluid changes.

 

a lot just depends on what you feel your typical customer is like, and how accomodating you want to be for a customer with more extensive needs. For instance, ,right now I'm trying to change a front hub bearing assembly on my daighter's car and it's taking be MUCH longer than I expected. But other things like an oil change or pad-slapping the brakes, might never take more than an hour or 2. It's kinda like a bell curve. Someone that needs a spot for less than half a day, shouldn't get gouged. Someone needing a spot for a month shouldn't either(that's steady, guaranteed money - maybe after 2 weeks though, the price starts creeping up to encourage getting the car outta there?). someone taking up a spot for several days - well, you need to encourage people to clear up space for the next paying customer. Maybe only allow long-term rental to one spot. keep a waiting list for it or find some way to auction it off????

 

maybe develop a way for people to earn time when they help other folks. Like collecting 'Thumbs Up' from other users. Or, that may very well lead to a lot of liability and perhaps customers should be warned to refrain from offering help to other patrons ?????

 

just some odd thoughts I had about it.

Edited by 1 Lucky Texan

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Was a couple of places like that up in Jackson, many years ago. Was nice to use a lift to do clutch, exhaust, brakes on a vehicle. Pricing was fair for the times back then.

 

No tools were loaned out, you had to have your own hand tools. Bigger items like a transmition jack, oil catch basins, air compressor were there for the use. No welding or cutting torch use was allowed, period. Cut-off wheels, grinders and the likes were allowed.

 

Rates were hourly, 1/2 or full day, and both places were open 6:AM to 10:PM. You could only leave vehicle overnight for one night. Had to get it out by close of 2nd day, regardless.

 

Insurance rates finally caused them to stop renting out the bays. Don't recall any kind of problems such as injuries, vehicle damage, or whatever. But I do know from asking one of the owners that it was due to insurance cost.

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The liability will kill it. No insurance company will touch you and the first time you get sued you will be wiped out completely. Even if you win the lawyers and the time involved in winning will wipe you out. And if you don't get sued your insurance will drop you after the first accident and no carrier will touch you from then on. Waivers are a waste of the paper they are written on because it doesn't stop someone from suing you into oblivion.

 

There's a reason only military bases can get away with setups like that. It's been tried and it inevitably fails.

 

Then there's the aspect of generally dealing with poor people that have no tools or place to work on a car, AND no money to pay someone else to do it. It's all well and good to want to help these people out but THEY DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY. And you can't run any business with a customer base of people that are broke and have old broken cars. There's just not enough revenue from that market segment for the costs involved in running each bay with a lift, tools, etc.

 

Then who's going to clean up after all these tool bags that rent your space and tools? What about broken/stolen tools? It's simply too much hassle.

 

I run my own shop and I let a few select friends use it from time to time. Even they don't respect the space like I do. The general public is much, MUCH worse.

 

GD

Edited by GeneralDisorder
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Man you guys are killer. Keep the ideas coming. 1 lucky texan, that is a lot to think about but many good ideas. Some of them I had thought of before but many I hadn't. And GD, I've worked in a dealership for 6 years but never run my own shop. I have thought about the whole "poor people with no money to pay" thing and I'm trying to figure out how to market the idea a little differently. I am getting in touch with several other places that rent out bays to get an idea of how they do it and how it's working out for them.

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I wonder if there is some kinda organization behind the existing 'hobby garages' ?

 

i ask because, the AMA (Americam Modelers Association) has a deal where, any RC modeler that belongs, is covered by a million $ policy (might be more now, it's been decades since I learned about that) and, folks who operate skating rinks I believe have an organization that offers some kinda insurance. And local Gem&Mineral clubs (rockhounds) have a simialr deal, thru the AFMS I think, that covers folks on field trips and visitors. I guess it just works better for an organization to shop around for insurance since it offers a 'collective' amount of money for a blanket policy instead of everyone shopping individually.

 

maybe associate it with some existing non-profit and get a salary to manage it?

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I run a small shop. I would never do it. I thought having a bay I rented but my insurance agent talked me out of it and rather quickly I might add. Talk to a business insurance agent like I did.

 

When you hire technicians you are essentially renting the bay to them but you deal with each of them 1 on 1 and can establish rules and such. You rent them the bay but backwards if you really think about it. You rent it for example at 80/hour so they can make you 105 and get back 25. See what I mean?

But they bring their own tools, knowledge and experience. And they are supposed to clean up after themselves.

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As a "shop", the liability issue is tough.  But, check out hackerspaces.org - they can have any "feature" you want including auto bays and lifts, the model is time tested and the liability has not been a problem under this model (you do need insurance), they have people doing things far more dangerous than basic auto repair.  Tons of resources on how to set them up.  You can run them as a coop, for-profit, some even go full non-profit route as well.  So much info on them, I can't really put it all here, check it out!

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The liability will kill it. No insurance company will touch you and the first time you get sued you will be wiped out completely. Even if you win the lawyers and the time involved in winning will wipe you out. And if you don't get sued your insurance will drop you after the first accident and no carrier will touch you from then on. Waivers are a waste of the paper they are written on because it doesn't stop someone from suing you into oblivion.

 

There's a reason only military bases can get away with setups like that. It's been tried and it inevitably fails.

 

Then there's the aspect of generally dealing with poor people that have no tools or place to work on a car, AND no money to pay someone else to do it. It's all well and good to want to help these people out but THEY DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY. And you can't run any business with a customer base of people that are broke and have old broken cars. There's just not enough revenue from that market segment for the costs involved in running each bay with a lift, tools, etc.

 

Then who's going to clean up after all these tool bags that rent your space and tools? What about broken/stolen tools? It's simply too much hassle.

 

I run my own shop and I let a few select friends use it from time to time. Even they don't respect the space like I do. The general public is much, MUCH worse.

 

GD

 

I concur with GD as usual, but I thought I would elaborate.  I knew a guy that was really into this same idea for a long time, so we put some thought into it.  I just couldn't see how all the investment in equipment, depreciation, payroll (still there), and insurance could be over-balanced with income.  Not to mention theft and breakage from people who don't care about abusing the tools.  People would expect the rates to be lower than a regular shop, but you would have almost the same overhead or more with additional insurance cost as well as tooling and safety set-ups to meet the varied skill levels of your customers.  It would cost money to be readily adaptable to everyone's skill and knowledge levels, and as GD mentioned, these people often have little money to begin with and there's the increased risk of a law suit to consider.

 

I think scheduling the bays could be a logistical nightmare as well.  Professional mechanics know how long a particular job will take, but homey probably doesn't, so you would need a policy for when someone disables their car in a work space and goes over their scheduled time.  Tons of babysitting.

 

I don't mean to be a naysayer, but basic economics are not stacked in favor of the solvency of this idea.  In principle it's a great idea and the hackerspace platform looks interesting, but if you want it to be a for-profit money earner that would pay salaries I don't think you would see adequate returns...unless you could bankroll it at a scale in which volume would overcome the thin profit margin.  Even then you would probably have to break it into beginner, intermediate, and advanced bay areas with tooling and assistance to match, etc, etc,...It would be a tremendous amount of investment and work to do it right and not doing it right would be a fool's errand.

 

Sorry I don't have answers for the OP's direct questions because I probably would not use this service if it were available simply because I am set-up at home.  I wish you well if you get it going, it's a nice idea but it would be hard for it to not turn into a charity or worse.

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I"m like ferox,I"m set up at home to do Everything I need-FAB.Weld,Restore,Rebuild.My friends Always want to use my shop Sorry... thereis a place here in Westminister called DIY and I think they are connected with NAPA-they have NAPA oil &antifreeze and offer napa parts if you don"t have your own.You should be able to find them on the WEB here in CO. I think it"s www.DIY.com  But I"m with GD on the liability part of it and the money. Good Luck

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Well, I'm going to meet with someone in a couple of weeks who is already doing this and check out their setup. I guess I'll have a better idea after that trip.

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Me personally, I would not want to go to a place such as this.

#1....I typically take longer to do a task on the car

    (I am just slower, IE don't do it every day so I am not versed at it, & I am dyslexic so I try to take things slower so that I don't screw something up)

 

#2....Ref back to #1 I would feel rushed in a situation where I was paying per hr for the space.

#3....I have my own space (Thank YOU God, my Grandma, Grandpa, & Dad for making it possible :))

#4....I would be just as well taking it to a shop if I did screw something up in a rush.

 

I just can't imagine the overhead that would be present for an owner with a shop like this though. 

 

Not to mention the liability like has been stated before here

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IMHO I am a shadetree mechanic I hate working outside on the ground, but Even if there was a place to use a shop for an hourly rate I doubt I would use it. The main reason I wouldn't is because if I am doing a job that requires a shop (like a head gasket) I have friends that have shops and or a building that I can use. Tools are not a concern for me if I don't have one I will usually make one or again I have friends :grin: I think that the kind of clientele you will be looking to rent too are probably not going to have a lot of money and probably don't know or use proper safety precautions. It could probably be done but I doubt it is going to be very profitable.

Just my $0.02

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Well, I'm going to meet with someone in a couple of weeks who is already doing this and check out their setup. I guess I'll have a better idea after that trip.

 

I would really like to hear what you find out and other observations you might have for the sake of curiosity.  There are a couple scenarios that I think could work if done correctly.

 

1)  Provide a fully kitted and tooled shop for a tenant or team of tenants on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.  This is not a new concept, but it means you deal with an individual or small group of known individuals that rent the space and equipment continuously during their tenancy and you could develop a strong contract to protect your interests.  

 

2)  Specialize.  Offer a DIY shop resource for a sub-set of auto-mechanical needs.  It would have to be something that normally either costs a lot of money or requires expensive specialized equipment.  Tube bending comes to mind for roll cages and off-road bumpers.  You could even sell DOM tubing by the stick.  Of course there's more than a tubing bender involved but you probably get the idea.

 

Another idea would be head work.  There's probably more overhead than the tubing-bender idea, but you could also provide tooling for DIY port and polish.  Big beefy air compressors are expensive, loud, and massive...they are also awesome when you need to run air tools.  Some people might like to try to give their heads a custom finish, etc,...or you could kind of combine ideas and do DIY intake and exhaust.

 

Basically, if you keep it simple and can identify a few situations like that where you could invest in equipment that is out of many people's financial reach, but isn't so expensive that returns take forever to pay it back, then I think you could make it work and could turn $6,000 coupled with some intelligence and hard work into $60,000 more or less.  If it fails then you have some tooling and equipment you can either use or sell.

 

I would also try to design a shop where I could make items for sale during slow business hours.

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Bump. Curious if things are working out or what the progress is???

I'm uncertain on the survey, still. As long as everyone has to bring their own tools, and signs a hold harmless/release of liability...you may stand a chance. And the right neighborhood and/or niche.

 

Mostly just curious if the last few months have produced any news, though :)

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I think the idea is great, but then upon more thought, how would something like this ever get through OSHA? Mechanics work in super dangerous spaces. I have seen a lift not completely lock and nearly take a dude's head off. Additionally, The number of inexperienced or very little experience will be such a huge portion of your clientele, and so the longevity of pretty expensive machinery and tools could be cut in half or worse.I just feel like once the list of what is cleared by OSHA will end essentially being a garage with a few common tools, and I don't think people would want to pay for that and may get bummed by all of the things they cannot use. I found this after a search from OSHA and here's the list...

 

Regulations cover everything from letting mechanics know their rights to making the proper equipment available to workers. The regulations are continually updated as well to keep up with changes in the industry. Failure to comply can result in a variety of penalties, from fines to permanent closure of an auto shop business.

Right to Know

Mandatory: This addresses the use of potentially hazardous chemicals, a very common occurrence in the automotive business. This standard simply requires that employees be notified in detail of the possible dangers of any of the chemicals they are using. OSHA insists that employees have a right to know how they might be affected by chemicals in the workplace. The right to know standard requires detailed labeling of all chemicals, inventory lists with information, training for employees in the safe use of chemicals and a written plan that outlines how the workplace plans to follow the right to know provision.

Protective Equipment Mandatory to provide adequate safety equipment for the workers. Shops are required to have written plans and safety equipment to deal with the hazards that many employees are exposed to at work. For example, workers are supposed to use respirators when painting. Auto shops are required to provide safety equipment, ranging from goggles to noise reduction devices that are readily available and maintained in good condition. Some of the more common citations for body shops involve inadequate use or supply of respiratory safety equipment and insufficient numbers of fire extinguishers.
Tools There are a variety of OSHA standards that govern the use of tools in auto shops. All tools must be maintained in good condition so that they may be safely used, and employees should be informed of the proper use of all tools and possible dangers. Some of the larger, more standardized tools, such as the car lift, must be inspected and serviced on a regular basis in order to be up to standard with OSHA. There are strict standards for the storage of tools. For example, all tools that can move must be removed from power, secured and locked out of the shop during cleaning in order to protect against movement. This applies to cars as well.
Shop Space The layout of the shop itself also must be up to certain safety standards. The floor must be kept uncluttered and should provide easy access for walking. All spills should be cleaned up immediately, and tools and parts that are not being used should be put away. There are also broader regulations for the shop layout, such as standards for electrical wiring. One of the bigger hazards in auto shops is flammability, and OSHA is known for citing auto shops for not addressing this issue. Fire extinguishers and fire plans are expected, and auto shops are supposed to have a flameproof booth for doing things such as spray finishing and using flammable materials.

 

Maybe weigh the pros and cons by talking ot someone at OSHA, just in case.

 

Just trying to help out!

 

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Yeah, and there was a shop near me that did this. Rented their space at night and worked on customer cars during the day. Midnight garage or something like that.. Closed up completly in short time

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